Author's Note: The "Upstate New York Stargazing" series ran on the newyorkupstate.com and syracuse.com websites (and limited use in-print) from 2016 to 2018. For the full list of articles, see the Upstate New York Stargazing page.
Stargazing in Upstate NY: What to see in the night skies June 30 to July 7
Updated: Jun. 30, 2017, 2:41 p.m. | Published: Jun. 30, 2017, 1:41 p.m.
By Damian Allis | Contributing writer
This summertime weekly summary for planetary, satellite, constellation, and other observing opportunities covers the end of June and first week of July.
Lectures and observing opportunities in Upstate/Central New York
New York has a number of astronomers, astronomy clubs, and observatories that host public sessions throughout the year. Announced sessions from several respondent NY astronomy organizations are provided below for all of July so you can plan accordingly. As wind and cloud cover are always factors when observing, please check the provided contact information and/or email the groups a day-or-so before an announced session, as some groups will also schedule weather-alternate dates. Also use the contact info for directions and to check on any applicable event or parking fees.
Astronomy Events Calendar
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||June 30||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 7||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 14||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 21||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Adirondack Public Observatory||Tupper Lake||Public Observing||July 28||1/2 Hour After Sunset||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||Senior Science Day||July 3||3:00 – 4:00 PM||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||Night Sky Adventure||July 18||7:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||AAAA Meeting||July 20||7:30 – 9:00 PM||email, website|
|Albany Area Amateur Astronomers & Dudley Observatory||Schenectady||Octagon Barn Star Party||July 28||8:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||Observing At The Strasenburgh||July 1||8:30 – 10:30 PM||Jim S., 585-703-9876|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||ASRAS Member Meeting||July 7||7:30 – 9:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||Public Star Party @ Northampton Park||July 10||9:30 – 11:00 PM||email, website|
|Astronomy Section, Rochester Academy of Science||Rochester||RocheSTAR Fest 2017||July 28 – 29||daytime & nighttime||email, website|
|Baltimore Woods||Marcellus||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 21/22||8:00 – 11:00 PM||email, website|
|Clark Reservation State Park||Jamesville||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 28/29||8:00 – 11:00 PM||315-492-1590 website|
|Green Lakes State Park||Fayetteville||Bob Piekiel – Choosing A Telescope||July 7||7:00 – 9:00 PM||315-637-6111 website|
|Green Lakes State Park||Fayetteville||Bob Piekiel & Summer Skies||July 14/15||7:30 – 10:30 PM||315-637-6111 website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||KAS Monthly Meeting||July 5||7:00 – 9:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||June 30||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 7||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 14||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 21||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Kopernik Observatory & Science Center||Vestal||Friday Night Lecture & Observing||July 28||8:00 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Public Stargazing @ Waterville Library||July 15||9:15 – 11:59 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Solar and Star Gazing||July 20||5:00 – 10:00 PM||email, website|
|Mohawk Valley Astronomical Society||Waterville||Public Stargazing @ Prospect Library & Quarry||July 22||7:45 – 11:59 PM||email, website|
ISS And Other Bright Satellites:
Satellite flyovers are commonplace, with several bright passes easily visible per hour in the nighttime sky, yet a thrill to new observers of all ages. Few flyovers compare in brightness or interest to the International Space Station. The flyovers of the football field-sized craft with its massive solar panel arrays can be predicted to within several seconds and take several minutes to complete.
There are three prominent flyovers this week, but you'll have to be an early riser to see them. The times across the state are all very close – simply go out and orient yourself a few minutes before the scheduled flyover and look for what first appears as a distant plane.
|Date||Brightness||Approx. Start||Start Direction||Approx. End||End Direction|
|Jul-17||moderately||4:52 AM||S/SW||4:58 AM||E/NE|
|Jul-17||somewhat||4:01 AM||S/SE||4:05 AM||E|
|Jul-17||very||4:44 AM||SW||4:50 AM||E/NE|
Predictions courtesy of heavens-above.com. For updated nightly predictions, visit spotthestation.nasa.gov.
|First Quarter:||Full:||Third Quarter:||New:|
|Jun. 30, 8:51 PM||Jul. 9, 12:06 AM||Jul. 16, 3:25 PM||Jul. 23, 5:45 AM|
The Moon's increasing brightness as Full Moon approaches washes out fainter stars, random meteors, and other celestial objects – this is bad for most observing, but excellent for new observers, as only the brightest stars (those that mark the major constellations) and planets remain visible for your easy identification. If you've never tried it, the Moon is a wonderful binocular object. The labeled image identifies features easily found with low-power binoculars.
Items and events listed below assume you're outside and observing most anywhere in New York state. The longer you're outside and away from indoor or bright lights, the better your dark adaption will be. If you have to use your smartphone, find a red light app or piece of red acetate, else set your brightness as low as possible.
Evening Skies: The two most prominent shapes in the sky – the Big Dipper and the Summer Triangle – are both high in the evening sky this month on opposite sides of the zenith, the point directly above you. The Big Dipper is a bright and easy guide for finding Polaris, the north star. From its handle, you can "arc" down to Arcturus. Jupiter, which stands out soon after sunset, is close to the bright star Spica in Virgo and to the southwest of bright Arcturus in Bootes. Saturn is also visible as dusk approaches, rising soon after the bright orange star Antares in Scorpius.
Morning Skies: Venus is unmistakable in the early morning sky, second only to the Moon in brightness before sunrise. Saturn will have moved far to the southwest as the Earth rotates, which also brings the Big Dipper close to the northern horizon. The dim, distant planet Uranus is in Gemini and can be seen with low-power binoculars, appearing as a faint, blue-green star.
Mercury: Mercury is hidden within the bright light of the the morning sun. Mercury will be visible again when it returns to sunset skies in July before becoming a morning target again in August.
Venus: Venus remains unmistakable in the early morning and even into sunrise if you know where to look. The planet does continue to slip away from us in its orbit, but we see more of its illuminated surface in the process. The result is an only slight dimming of the planet over the entire month as it goes from 40% to 60% illumination.
Mars: Mars sets very close to dusk right now, making it a difficult target without binoculars and a very clear horizon. Mars will not return to our pre-midnight skies until this time next year, but will become a morning target this mid-August.
Jupiter: If you look south soon after sunset, Jupiter will be the brightest object you'll see this summer (or second-brightest if the moon is out). Jupiter has a close approach with the Moon in Virgo on June 30th and July 1st, and is otherwise the most prominent object in the evening sky this month. Low power binoculars are excellent for spying the four bright Galilean moons – Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto – and several online guides will even map their orbits for you.
Saturn: Still on the western edge of the brightest part of the Milky Way, Saturn is going to spend the next 18 months making its way to the eastern edge, all the while giving us an excellent observing target from late Spring to mid-Autumn. While markedly closer to us, Saturn is not the brightest object in this part of the sky. Your eyes may be drawn to the orange star Antares in Scorpius first – simply look to the east for another bright pinpoint.
The very busy map of the Saturn position this month contains a treasure trove of Messier ("M") Objects observable with good binoculars, steady arms or a tripod, and a bit of patience. As we look south and in the vicinity of Saturn, we're staring into the dense heart of the Milky Way Galaxy itself during the summer. The wealth of objects in this part of the sky is not coincidence! Even a cursory scan of this part of the sky will reveal wispy features and small clusters of stars. A good star chart and some guide stars will help you determine just which object you're looking at.
Dr. Damian Allis is the director of CNY Observers and a NASA Solar System Ambassador. If you know of any other NY astronomy events or clubs to promote, please contact the author.